The other day, over the course of an oft-had conversation, one of my students said to me, in his terrific French accent,
‘You are crazy to be going to Germany. You will be German.’
I said, as I have often said, ‘I will always be Australian, don’t you worry about that.’ And I am rather confident this is fact. By virtue of my birth, blood and behaviour I will always be Australian.
But my student was thinking further down the track. ‘Yes but you will have childs and your childs will be German and they will have childs and they will be German too and no one will care about your ‘istory.’
There it was.
And he’s right, you know. Each generation can only take up the thread for a fraction of the tapestry and even then it’s hard enough if families stay in the same country. And traditions do fall by the wayside anyway, consumed or altered or abandoned by time. My own story, defined so starkly by this move, this split between home country and adopted home country, will be just that to those who follow me – a story. I’m not quite sure I get a say in the matter as to whether my children and their children will care about my history, I’m not sure any of us do.
Perhaps this is what all of this is about, this boxing and bubble wrapping of sentimental items. My past. My history. Keeping it in my possession, in my sights. When I leave here again to move back to a little home that already holds history of its own, I don’t want to start afresh again, I want to blend my past with my present. I want to have that little bottle of my Nana’s perfume sitting in the bathroom of my apartment for no other reason than it is a marker of my history. I want to keep ballet slippers that are 20 years old because, like my music collection, like that vase and that tea cup, those little shoes are a part of my ‘istory. And when I have childs, wherever I am in the world, I want them to know that.